Melanie Giddings is coming out of the fight of her life to return to the work she loves


SARATOGA SPRINGS – It’s hard not to love Melanie Giddings.

Looks like she’s always smiling. She is quick to laugh. Always in a good mood.

During the summer that is Saratoga, the 37-year-old is especially happy, even more so when she’s zipping around the track aboard her trusty pony, Mitch. Beginning before dawn and continuing until mid-morning, Giddings and Mitch make constant trips from trainer Jeremiah Englehart’s barn to the Oklahoma practice track. They accompany young horses and their riders to the arena for their daily exercise.

From Englehart’s barn in the annex, they cross Fifth Avenue and then Oklahoma. Giddings and Mitch come and go. And she loves every second of it. She should too. Giddings nearly lost it all a year ago when she was in the battle of her life.

She was diagnosed with endocervical and ovarian cancer.

“Step 4,” she said, sitting in Englehart’s office after a recent morning of training. “Almost stage 5. I’m very lucky.”

Six cycles of chemotherapy, surgery, a series of 28 radiation treatments. Giddings went through hell and back but came out on the right side.

“I remember thinking, ‘If I wake up in the morning, I’m here…if I don’t, I won’t,'” Giddings said.

What makes his ordeal even more excruciating is that maybe it shouldn’t have been so bad.

Giddings says she remembers not feeling very well for “almost 10 years”. Her doctors didn’t see the same thing she felt. And the feeling was ugly and getting worse.

While working on the track, specifically for trainer Al Stall Jr. from 2018 to 2019, she experienced severe back pain. She knew something was wrong but couldn’t get a doctor to come back to Kentucky to tell her. Giddings, still in top form, felt ill. Tiredness. Pain. It wasn’t fair.

“Before COVID was a thing, I couldn’t breathe walking up stairs,” she said.

She finally received the diagnosis she had always suspected and had surgery in June 2020.

“I told my surgeon, ‘When you go in there, it’s not going to be good,'” Giddings said. “I had broken a lot of bones in my body during the race, but this pain was brutal. The worst I have ever had. I don’t know how I was able to work.”

When the 10-hour surgery was performed, a seven-centimeter mass was found in her uterus and had begun to grow towards her colon, a grapefruit-sized mass on her left ovary that was causing pain in her the ribs and made it difficult to breathe.

Her stomach lining was removed, as were her ovaries and uterus.

She would never give up, never stop fighting.

“She’s tough – she’s a tough Canadian,” Stall said of Giddings, who is from the town of Cobourg, about 60 miles east of Toronto. “We’re happy and hope she’s getting better and better. I’m glad she’s back.”

After her health began to improve, Giddings felt the best therapy would be for her to get back to work, back to the horses. It’s something she’s done all her life. She reunited with Englehart, someone she had worked with before.

She is his assistant.

“Melanie and I have been good friends for a while,” Englehart said. “When she was going through her cancer, I was watching her and talking to her about working again.”

The lure of the horse put Giddings back in the game.

Englehart wanted to make sure Giddings was physically able to do the demanding work at the barn. He didn’t need to worry. He said she arrives at the barn every day between 4:15 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. while the rest of the Northeast is still sleeping.

“I have 100% confidence in her,” Englehart said. “That’s hard to come by in this business. She’s a hard worker, she’s always been that way. I hope she enjoys being here as much as I enjoy her being here.”

There are days, of course, when she has to slow down. Giddings is tired. She’s overheated. But she gets by every day thanks to her love of work and her love of horses. Her constant companion, Mitch the pony, “has been a saving grace,” she said.

“I don’t wake up feeling my best every day,” she said. “But, where I am now, I feel 1,000 times better than I have in the past 10 years. Everything happens for a reason. We’re meant to be here as long as we’re here. And that’s it.”


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